Guerrero's HR powers Angels by Orioles, 3-2

Ponson complete game is undone by two-run shot

Mora, J. Lopez also hit homers

Angel struck out twice before 453-foot winner

May 23, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Vladimir Guerrero must have figured he didn't hurt enough feelings in Baltimore last winter. First he turns down the Orioles' money. Then he goes about crushing the spirits of those who graciously accepted it.

Just when it looked like Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson was hitting his groove last night, Guerrero had one of those moments that made him the most sought-after player on the free-agent market.

After taking some mighty swings and striking out in his first two at-bats, Guerrero unleashed all his fury into a pitch Ponson wished he had back. Guerrero crushed a two-run, 453-foot home run in the fifth inning that lifted the Anaheim Angels to a 3-2 victory before a sellout crowd at Angel Stadium.

It turned into a big night for the free agents Angels owner Arte Moreno splurged on last offseason, as Kelvim Escobar (3-2) tossed seven strong innings, and left fielder Jose Guillen made another spectacular throw to nail B.J. Surhoff at home plate.

The Orioles got fourth-inning home runs from Melvin Mora and Javy Lopez but suffered their third straight defeat. They trailed 3-2 in the seventh inning, when third base coach Tom Trebelhorn decided to test Guillen's arm again, by sending home Surhoff from second on a single by Larry Bigbie.

Guillen, who cut down Mora at home plate in Friday's 5-3 Anaheim win, threw another strike, and Surhoff was out by five feet.

Angels catcher Jose Molina applied the tag, and Surhoff was visibly upset. He tossed some dirt, threw his helmet into the netting near the on-deck circle and stalked into the dugout.

"Trebs did the right thing," Surhoff said. "To [Guillen's] credit, he made a great throw, but I didn't make a very good turn. I don't know if I'm safe [with a better turn], but at least I give myself a better chance."

Escobar, who is 11-3 against the Orioles for his career, held them to two runs on five hits this time. Francisco Rodriguez retired the side in the eighth, and Troy Percival struck out Surhoff with runners at first and third to close out his 12th save.

Ponson (3-4), who signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal to return to the Orioles last winter, turned in his second consecutive complete game, and No. 3 on the season, as he held the Angels to nine hits in eight innings.

He threw 106 pitches and was so good that manager Lee Mazzilli said he would have sent him back out to pitch the ninth had the Orioles tied the score or taken the lead.

But Ponson was left to lament one pitch - the 85-mph slider to Guerrero in the fifth.

Guerrero, of course, is the one who turned down a six-year, $78 million offer from the Orioles to sign a five-year, $70 million deal with the Angels. The contract also includes an option for 2009 that can bring the total to $82 million.

The former Montreal Expos right fielder is now batting .333 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs.

"If I threw that ball where I wanted to, I'll bet I would get him out," said Ponson, whose career record against the Angels fell to 7-1.

But Ponson said he was happy to finally have his act together on the mound. After tossing a five-hit shutout against the same Angels last Sunday at Camden Yards, he has now put together two good starts for the first time this season.

Anaheim used three singles to take the lead in the third inning, but the Orioles came right back in the fourth when Mora and Lopez each hit a towering home run to center field. Mora led off the inning with his eighth homer of the season, and Lopez connected for his sixth with two outs.

As a team, the Orioles have now hit 16 home runs in their past nine games. The revamped lineup was expected to produce like that from the beginning, but through the season's first 30 games, they had just 28 home runs.

Trying to protect the 2-1 lead, Ponson came tantalizingly close to escaping the fifth inning. Adam Kennedy doubled and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by David Eckstein, but Ponson struck out Chone Figgins for a huge second out.

One pitch later, his entire night turned sour. Ponson threw the slider thigh-high over the outer half of the plate, and Guerrero reached out and yanked it with a titanic blast beyond both bullpens in left field.

"If he throws it two inches lower, maybe he doesn't hit it," Mazzilli said. "You can't fault someone when he pitches a game like that."

Ponson could have kicked himself for getting beat in that situation with anything less than a fastball. But he had struck out Guerrero with an 86-mph slider in the first inning and then with a 94-mph fastball in the third.

"It wasn't bad, but it definitely didn't go where I wanted it to go," Ponson said. "I had been pounding him in all day, and then I threw a pitch that gets over the white [of home plate]. He's the kind of hitter who can do that."

Orioles today

Opponent: Anaheim Angels

Site: Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Calif.)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (2-0, 1.42) vs. Angels' Aaron Sele (2-0, 2.97)

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